It might be a strange thing for a parenting blogger to confess that the idea of her daughter appearing in the paper is mildly terrifying and yet, that’s exactly what it is.
You know, it’s one thing to write about your children, with full control over what gets put out there in the world. It’s an absolutely different thing to put her story in the hands of a newspaper, let alone the New York Post (no offense, Post), allow her to give an interview, pose for some photos, and then…it’s out of your hands. Even if it’s a really nice story.
Evidently, my mom tweeted my post (to Mark Bittman no less) about Thalia’s April letter to the principal about her issues with the school breakfast. The tweet was seen by the reporter–good lesson that you don’t need a million followers to get a message out–which lead to an interview and a photo shoot and Thalia doing her best not to smile as the photographer asked her to raise a finger and look mad.
Thalia has never not smiled in her life.
It stressed me out.
There were images of the Miley Cyrus Vanity Fair shoot in my head; it’s easy to see how a kid can get swept away in the moment, pleasing an adult and losing sense of herself. I was nervous that they would give Thalia credit for a terrific eco-campaign being run by some other kids in school, just because she’s little and cute. I was nervous that they would turn her into some kid who actually eats more than three foods for dinner. But mostly, I was worried about the smiling. And so was Thalia.
That was enough for me to write to the very nice reporter, just to let her know all these things. Nate told me, multiple times, oh my God you’ve turned into That Mom. And I was like, hell yes I have. And when it comes to my kids, I will always be.
Overall, I think the paper did a nice job.
[edited to add: I think the writer did a decent job. I would like to have a few words with the photo editor who created a caricature of a kid that is entirely unfamiliar to me.]
[edited to add again: Okay you're all right. The story is intentionally provocative and misleading and "gadfly" hardly describes her actions. Sigh. ]
But Thalia wants me to tell you the rest of the story that didn’t make the cut, so here it is:
Several weeks after she wrote the letter, a series of posters went up around the school from a group of fifth graders launching a full-on petition drive to make the school cafeteria more eco-friendly. Thalia was so excited to find a group of kids that shared her mission, and we talked about how there’s strength in numbers, and how she could do more with the fifth graders than she could by herself.
So she got permission to go upstairs and ask some of the older kids (thanks Trixie!) to come down to her class with her, so that she could personally ask her own classroom to sign the petitions. She talked to them about why it’s important to help the environment. And why she’s worried that kids can “get diseases” if they eat lots of bad food. She called herself the “first grade helper.” She wants to go around to all the classes in her grade and talk to them too.
And now Sage is asking to do the same for the pre-k.
All of this made Thalia feel as proud to help the fifth graders as she felt handing in that letter to the principal in the first place.
And it made me so happy to recognize that we’re in an awesome public school run by an administration that allows children to speak their minds and pursue their passions, and talk openly about the things they care about.
It will be exciting to see where Thalia is by the time she’s in that fifth grade class, and it’s time for their annual campaign once again.
But what I’m really excited about is not whether she’s turning into a little activist or not (though heaven knows it’s in her DNA). Right now I love that she’s learning she has a voice. And I love that she’s now thinking harder about her own choices that she makes. That very day after the interview, the cafeteria had a chef’s salad on the menu, and she promised me that she would choose that instead of her usual peanut butter sandwich.
As it turns out, the salad was, in Thalia’s words, “about six pieces of lettuce with some chicken nuggets next to it.”
I guess we have a ways to go on the school lunch front.
But on the Thalia front? Maybe Jamie Oliver and the New York Post just convinced our daughter to do what we haven’t in nearly 7 years–eat better.
Also, Thalia asked me to show you the picture she really wanted in the paper. Which is this one.
What can I say. She was born smiling.